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5 Ways to Fit Mindfulness Into an Incredibly Busy Life

Mindfulness that takes no extra time.

Source: Unsplash

Do you have a laundry list of things that are "good for you" but that you find hard to fit into your life? Me too!

Below you'll find some incredibly simple ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your day without it taking any extra time. The key is to use natural moments of downtime, and to link mindfulness to activities you already do. Check out these quick and easy suggestions, and pick your favorite.

1. Take a single mindful breath whenever you're stopped at any red traffic light.

Stopping at red traffic lights is an unavoidable, natural pause. Make the most of this pause by taking one mindful breath, relaxing your neck and shoulders, and paying attention to what it feels like to be in your body, right at that particular second when you're stopped at a light. This is my personal favorite, achievable form of mindfulness. It's easy to unconsciously hold tension in your body when you're rushing around in the car. Use taking one mindful breath as an opportunity to release tension you're holding anywhere in your body. You can use your in-breath to notice any areas of tension, and your out-breath to release your tension and relax those areas.

2. Take your first two bites or first two sips, mindfully.

Mindful eating can seem like a daunting goal, but a much less daunting target is that when you eat or drink, you can drink your first two sips of any drink, or eat your first two bites or any food, mindfully. By this, I just mean paying attention to the sensory experiences of taking a bite or sip.

You can pick either drinking or eating rather than both if you'd like. You can also just make this a once a day exercise, like that you eat you first two bites of lunch mindfully. Pick whatever routine is most appealing to you.

Extra tip: If you've never done mindful eating, try the classic "eating a raisin, mindfully" exercise, which you can read instructions for here. Doing this will show you what we mean by mindful eating.

3. Take one mindful breath whenever you sit down to start a meeting.

This is the exact same principle as the traffic light example, but instead of using red lights as the contextual trigger, you're going to use the start of any meeting as your trigger to be mindful. Take one mindful breath to ground yourself in your body, and in the present moment, whenever you arrive for a meeting. You can use this trigger whether arriving at a meeting entails sitting down in a conference room or picking up the phone to start a phone meeting.

4. Your choice - Link a single mindful breath to any behavior you do at least once a day.

In fact, you can use the same principle we've discussed and link it to any behavior you like. Here are some variations:

  • Activities that involve water can be a good option. For example, take a mindful breath when you first stand in the shower, or just before getting out of the shower.
  • You can take a mindful breath before getting out of bed or take a few mindful breaths when you get into bed at night. Pay attention to the sensations of being in your body, in your bed, and of the sensation of gravity and of your body making contact with your mattress.
  • Another variation on the water theme is taking a mindful breath whenever you turn on a tap to wash your dishes or to brush your teeth. You can also pay attention to the sound and sensations of the water.
  • Noticing the feeling of air on your skin can be a very pleasant mindfulness exercise and is an alternative to focusing on a breath. The idea is that you'll naturally slow your breathing when you're paying attention to the sensation of air on your skin, without needing to specifically focus on your breath.
  • If you're a parent, you can try a minute of mindfulness when you're first reunited with your kids when you get home from work.

5. Do a 30-day mindfulness project.

If you'd like to experiment with different types of mindfulness without making a commitment to any one mindfulness practice, you can try this 30 day mindfulness challenge that I've put together. Every day has a very short and simple type of mindfulness to try. You can download a (free) printable calendar here, that you can stick on your wall. For best results, save the image and then print. If you'd prefer to auto-download the file to your computer, you can do that by clicking here. Experiment with these different practices to find what works for your schedule and your preferences. If you're not someone who wants to stick to any one thing continuously, you can always just use this 30 days of mindfulness calendar (or any one week), whenever you sense you need it. There are no rules and you're not failing at mindfulness if you don't do it everyday.

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